Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 9 - Protestantism in the Late Nineteenth Century (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-009 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> PAUL: Well, if we�re going to move in to the 20th century now, let me keep that going. How did the Protestant churches develop over the course of the late 19th century and 20th century? Is there a difference between what occurred in America and what happened in Europe? It is my sense that during our own time, the church in Europe and the church in America have taken slightly different journeys. But I�d appreciate if you could help me understand this. >> DR. LAWRENCE REST: Paul, that's a big question and a rather challenging question but a really good question at the same time. And I think what we need to understand is that there is an important interplay between the church in Europe and America, especially in the 1800's. Then there's something of a lull, and it kicks back in the 20th century in a very big way. Though it is easy to distinguish the experiences of the two churches of the experiences of the church in Europe and in the United States, still there is always that give-and-take. And here's what I mean. In Europe, higher criticism develops much earlier than it does in America. Already in the 1700's, there are those who are questioning the veracity of the scriptures and wondering whether what the scriptures actually teach is true and is historical fact. This becomes especially clear in the year 1835 when a German theologian by the name of David Straus writes a book, publishes it, called "Das Leben Jesu," the Life of Jesus. And in this particular book, Straus emphasizes that the Gospel texts are not so much about Jesus, as an historical figure, as they are about what the early church believed about Jesus. And so, he would say, the key to understanding the New Testament, specifically the Gospel texts, is the idea of myth. That is, the early church created myths about Jesus that invested him with divine authority, a special status, and a unique work. In many ways, Straus simply undercut the historical truth of the Christian scriptures. And he moved the study of the scriptures away from the historic church�s understanding and certainly the Lutheran church�s understanding, of the bible as being the word of God written. Now things were thrown into uncertainty. What was word of God? What was not? And over the course of the 1800's, this approach that Straus simply characterized and exemplified simply became more and more of the practice of German theology and European theology. Finally, in the latter part of the 1800's, Americans began to adopt this method of interpretation as well. And many of the churches were thrown into controversy as theologians and preachers began to question the truth of the Bible. Within the Presbyterian Church, for example, there was a terrific controversy over whether the Bible spoke the truth in terms of historical fact or whether the Bible simply was a collection of stories and myths and narratives that made an ultimate theological point. The church was rent asunder ultimately within the controversy over fundamentalism and modernism as it played out. Churches found themselves divided. So, for example, within the Presbyterian tradition, Princeton Seminary ultimately adopted the historical critical method, and the Presbyterian Church found itself split by the late 1920's over this very question. One group left and formed Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, and ultimately, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church standing on and holding to the historic teaching regarding the scriptures while other Presbyterians took the more higher critical route. In that respect, again, the differences of experience between the American churches and the European churches were largely one of time. The European churches experienced this sooner, the American churches later. Another difference within the European churches, this perspective regarding historical criticism, was especially pushed forward by Lutherans. Straus being an example, others in the Tubingen School of Theology, F C Baur and so forth, many Lutherans were involved in not only developing this method, but advocating this method and popularizing this method. These controversies came much later to the Lutheran Church in America in the 20's, '30's, 40's, 50's, and '60s. So again, a difference in experience namely in terms of the chronology of the controversies. But there was another difference as well. The response in Europe to higher criticism was largely one of an increasing secularization within the church so that church membership, church participation, attendance at worship consistently declined throughout the European situation. That is to say once theologians began to question whether Jesus really did what the Bible said he did, many people responded by saying, what's the point. Why bother? So they simply stopped going to church. The case today in many European situations, church membership is at less than 5%, or church attendance at less than 5%. Though in the state church situations, church membership remains very high. In America, things take a bit of a different turn. The response to historical criticism is fundamentalism. That is, a movement begins to emerge already in the late 1890's and then through the first decade of the 1900's and then concretizing in the teens in resistance to and rejection of the modernism so-called of the higher critics. Fundamentalism, in other words, becomes a movement that specifically affirms the Bible being the word of God. In fact, fundamentalism initially has five points that it holds to, that are articulated. The first is the inerrancy of the scriptures, that the Bible is the word of God. The second is the truth of the virgin birth of Christ. The third is the reality and facticity of the miracle stories that are recorded in the Gospels. The fourth, the vicarious atonement of Jesus, that is that he died for our sins, paid for our sins with his blood. And fifth, the teaching of the bodily resurrection of Christ. Those five fundamentals were seen as just that, necessary to salvation. Later on, a sixth one was added, generally speaking, as people began to affirm the premillennial return of Jesus Christ. Fundamentalism, in other words, sought to go back to a historical understanding of Christianity. This put Lutherans into a kind of interesting position and ultimately would force some different responses from different Lutheran synods in America. Some rejected out of hand the notion of fundamentalism saying it was insufficient in terms of the modern understanding of what Christianity was all about. Others more cautiously affirmed the points that the fundamentalists were making while at the same time saying that this is not a sufficient articulation of the breadth and depth of Scriptures� teaching, but it's good so far as it goes. And still others actually adopted fundamentalism as sufficient, though with some reservations. So you see a variety of responses among America's Lutherans. And we'll go more deeply into that particular point as the course moves on. Nevertheless, what we see once again, are some fundamental, theological, and philosophical changes that have their roots in Europe, but then also impact American Christianity. The difference is where in Europe, higher criticism, the outgrowth of rationalism ultimately, triumphs, one might say, in converting much of the church to its perspective. In the United States, there's a division of opinion, and that division remained very apparent even in the 21st century. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****